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tv   Post- Assad Syria  CSPAN  December 23, 2012 4:20am-5:25am EST

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the defense minister four years was a suni, which is important to the arab nationalists. his deputy was a member of a key alawite family closely tied to the assad regime. i think the challenge really is trying to figure out where the extended family network stops and where the broader alawite
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community begins. that is not easy. assad, the father and the sun has inherited this. they have been a pretty remarkable job incorporating all of the different elements of the alawite community and making sure there are included in the system. certainly they are facing a fall from status, or at least a perceived fall from status. the question is how much are they facing an existential threat to them? that is something the assad has been effective at convincing the alawite population they're facing an existential threat. you could make the argument that some of the regime's key violence was an effort to in some ways radicalize the opposition to make this point clear to the alawite community that they need to rally around
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the raceme. i would. in particular to the first car bombs that went off a denture damascus. at the time they i didn't predict they denied it was them. at the time i dismissed the claim. as months went on more videos went out and it became pretty clear at that point that the regime had at least allowed the bombing to go on in order to sell the perception that the opposition is a bunch of terrorists. they even went so far as to release a key al qaeda ideologue who was under syrian control, or at least lead to that they had. in the long term, this will turn
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out to be a self-defeating assad regime.the alawit >> i would agree, but i think in some ways it has become a self- fulfilling prophecy. you know, you talk about being an academic and historian. i have been thinking more about the historic implications of what we are seeing happen in syria today. syria is a former part of the ottoman empire made up of a mosaic of ethnicities. what is striking to me is given the arab world has never really confronted the role of
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minorities and had a reckoning with what role minorities should play. it went from the ottoman arad to the post world war colonial era where colonial powers drew boundaries and helped organize these countries. then it went from the colonial era to an era dominated by authoritarian regimes. the question of what role they will play has never been addressed in any fashion. i think we're seeing an unraveling of that order. some very big questions about the kurds, the christians, the -- we are watching something of historic magnitude.
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was it the rule or the exception? i think that is an interesting question and time will tell. >>the assad family because they were from a minority sect, my understanding is they treated the other minorities fairly well with the exhibition of the kurds because they wanted a greater political support for a minority based regime. the minority groups for the most part were able to function fairly well. now, there is a fear of the unknown. nse of our twitter questios that came in from the facebook page says, what reconciliation steps should address men and
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women? that is a key question you are trying to raise. this is a problematic issue we're facing. >>it is difficult today with the violence being at the levels it is at to think about it. yet i think it is going to be essential there be efforts at national reconciliation and building civil peace. i think this is going to take a long time perhaps in areas no longer under government control where local councils are functioning and providing services, that might be the place to begin to think about how to encourage broader
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cooperation across sect. as far as i can tell, the local councils are very much homogeneous and reflective of the moasic and fragmented geography. i think what will be essential is the local councils attract cross ethnic composition so you get a in place the beginnings of government structures that are inclusive. >> that would be an example for other councils to follow and that perhaps -- >> i think you can start at the grassroots. i do not want to underestimate how difficult this is. the situation is extraordinarily difficult. we have not talked about the
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catastrophe that has unfolded. it is maybe a way to think about it going forward. >> i think the point about the local councils as something to discuss here. it is not something often talked about. what has happened in syria, it has more often to this local structures providing governance and organizing trash pickup and staffing schools. hospitals, clinics are a big function they perform. this function is important for their relationship with the military. there are the ones providing the medical treatment for soldiers and four rebels that are shot and wounded out there. i think it is an important dynamic of what is going on. something that we do need to
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focus more on as opposed to spending so much energy on the national level. we have not seen the opposition come together until the recent coalition, which i am actually quite hopeful about. what we have seen is the legitimacy has been derived from the ground up and enter syria. as for the military opposition as well as the political opposition. the stability after assad is they will have to accept a decentralized state. it does not need to be a hard line drawn. what i do see happening is an agreement between the central government and local government a local government will be stronger here and the central government is not going to have authority over syria. if any central power can come in
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after the fact and try to do that, they will undermine stability. in order to actually have reconciliation, i think the first up is going to be to get the armed opposition to coalesce around an organization that can credibly guarantee a monopoly on the use of force of the area controls. i think we have the beginnings of that, finally, with this new military coalition. beethe group includes a council of 30 commanders that i think it's representative of the rebel groups on the ground that actually have resources and capabilities and support. with the notable exceptions of
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the extremist group, that is a good step that that is how it is played out. what will make a lot of people uncomfortable is that about half of the councils of 30 are islamists. that has taken on a dirty word in washington. it is important to distinguish between islamists who are looking to establish a syrian country -- nationalists looking for an islamist government and syria as opposed to the radical stubbornness who are looking for a regional or global sectarian overtones to their ideology.
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that is something that was potentially inevitable as the conflict continued. it definitely happen after the only people providing armed support to the opposition were saudis and turks interested in seeing oscar -- islamism power after the fact. that was a greater share in the balance of power among the rebel groups inside syria. whatever the reasons for reaching this point, we are here now and the reality is the first up is being able to get behind a coalition that incredibly account for the vast majority of the opposition fighters on the ground. i think this coalition as that. >> thank you both for your comments. we would like to open up to the audience for questions and answers.
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please identify yourself and ask a question. >> i have seen members of the free syrian army refer to them as troops and the ground. i spoke to the patriarch over a year ago, he made it clear to me that he thought we were leading the way for air an unstable situation. i am curious if you think there should have been and should be down a change of the approach european and u.s. allies have been taken to syria? >> this organization was identified by the united states as a terrorist organization,
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very specifically to address this concern and to be very clear that this is not an organization that the united states, europeans, or any other for that matter from the united states perspective should be working with, spending money on, etc.. my own feeling is that i think that move was justified in makes a lot of sense. i think if one is to engage and be involved with opposition groups, it is very important to make those distinctions and to operate on those distinctions. particularly as one has to bear in mind again the concerns of minority communities and interests area who are understandably quite threatened by a group like that. how much influence though? we're going to be able to have at this distance is very questionable to be honest. i think there are dynamics that have been unleashed inside
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syria that are extraordinarily powerful and where, frankly, on some level our ability to control those dynamics, the united states i am now talking about, is somewhat limited. >> the question in the back. >> the european union, [indiscernible] if you could give us a small order of [indiscernible] the people that may be problematic for the u.s. perspective.
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>> quickly, i would say to me the center of gravity is homes. right now the regime has control of homes. the reason i say that is so important is because it really, geographically, that is the first reason. it's it's many ways -- all roads go through there in every direction. primarily, you need to drive through literally to go from damascus to the coast. if the regime is going to maintain a viable line of communication to the coast, they need to maintain holmes. there are other reasons for this as well. holmes has all of the oil and gas infrastructure. i think the geography really plays a key role there. i think if the rebels to reach a position where they can actually force the regime to negotiate as opposed to just continue this
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slide and to defeat it will be because they have controlled homes or because they go after the coast. as far as the keeper of the thinker problematic going forward, the battalion. i think they do a good job of characterized in who we are concerned about. is within the spectrum of what i would call more modern groups. you have a wide spectrum. a spectrum of groups very explicit about the fact they want elections -- they want
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islamists to influence the government. you have the have not made the statements so clear. not to be confused, it is a totally different animal. for those top three, ties to al qaeda and iraq, what is different is they have learned lessons from al qaeda and irawq q in that they have tried not to go after civilians. they have still done car attacks, they have still killed civilians. they are more confident of maintaining popular support and the ground. as far as their ideology, that is more of a threat long term
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because they're getting grass- roots support. if you talk to their leadership, they're good at playing the game of, if you talk to the rank and file, it becomes clear -- the italian i know less about here there is a lot of indication that they have links to the bombing attack that killed the toppers team officials said in july. they both operate in an itemized way which is different than other rebel groups that control territory. they both have these isolated battalions out there, units that all fight under the general fled.
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at the tactical level the opera with all these different rebel groups up there which is where things you see the backlash. >> i wonder if you two could address how you see palestinians fitting into the conflict? >> the palestinians to work to try to remain neutral in this. there were 500,000 plus palestinian refugees a dangerous area, largely within an area that is not a camp, it is a neighborhood of interest area.
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overtime the resume attempting to exploit longstanding connections between palestinians and the syrian government. what we would begin to see is there would attempt to use or have pro assad militia camps. this was an issue of contention. increasingly, as the regime's tactics grew more brittle, one began to see that the palestinian or turning increasingly against the assad regime. now, what they have done, which is not unlikely that it is done elsewhere, is resort to the most brutal attacks including
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aerial bombardment of this neighborhood, which, quite frankly, is not that far from center damascus. i believe we have troops poised to go in. they have warned people to go in and do their mop up and so forth. this has effectively turned to palestinians as an entire community against the assad regime. it has created enormous to reverse. a really horrendous situation from a humanitarian standpoint. one other thing to bear in mind is that syria used to also be aware hamas was based. withhad a public parking
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assad earlier this year and has moved i think this was the beginning of the unmasking of the narrative of the assad regime being the champions of the resistance. >> yes, please. >> [indiscernible] i was wondering if you have a good accounting of how much they
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are coming and making it through, are they still able to have ties with assad? we have mixed reports about the helicopter's upkeep. are they able to replenish the military supplies the have? do we have a good sense of what is there ground troops? we do -- how many french soldiers to they have that have ground capability? we have senate -- how many foot soldiers do they have that have ground community -- capability? >> first of all, with the question about militar


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